29 August 1997

Too much grass? Jump ahead in the rotation…

By Jessica Buss

IN the first year of strip grazing using back fencing on one Wiltshire dairy farm too much grass has built up ahead of the cows because of unseasonally high grass growth.

Thomas Glass explained at an Axient (formerly Genus Management) farmwalk at Stockham Marsh Farm, Foxham, Chippenham, that this system had improved grass recovery.

But high growth rates recently meant that grass was getting beyond the optimum stage for grazing, said New Zealand grazing consultant Paul Bird, also at the meeting.

Many producers at the farm walk were in a similar situation, but none wanted more silage. Mr Glasss silage pits were already full.

Mr Bird said that although some grass heads were visible on paddocks immediately ahead of the cows, grass planned for use later was at a better stage for grazing now. He advised grazing these paddocks now to speed up the grazing rotation and prevent grass quality on the main grazing area falling.

"Focus on the grazing and have confidence to jump ahead in the rotation rather than spread surpluses and lose grass quality."

Mr Bird suggested that the use of surplus grass is secondary to maintaining grass quality on most of the grazing area. Options for coping with the excess included making round bale silage for feeding next summer, and allowing grass to mature further and then grazing it with dry cows. Alternatively, set the area aside now, with the option of grazing it when grass growth declines.

Topping after the cows, provided grass was mown down to the height of grass between clumps, was advisable if good growth rates continued. This would improve sward quality. Cows should graze swards down hard, but he conceded this could compromise cow intakes and yields. Leader-follower grazing was an alternative to topping. But a large number of dry cows or youngstock were needed to graze down swards properly. &#42

High grass growth means that too much is immediately ahead of the cows.

Conference call

Keen to have a shorter winter this year? Then why not come along to a conference and farm walk organised by the British Grassland Society and FW. It will focus on how to manage grass this autumn to prepare for an early turnout.

The BGS/FW conference, on Wed, Sept 10, from 10am to 4pm, will be at the Village Hall, Newton St Cyres, Exeter, and afterwards at J G Quicke and Partners, Newton St Cyres. More details from Jan Crichton at the BGS on (01734-318189).

Maize racing ahead in heat

CROP maturity is advancing at a rapid rate, particularly on the hotter eastern side of the country.

According to Mike Warden, technical manager for Grainseed, there is a great difference in dry matter results between last week (Aug 14) and this week.

"With moisture not a particular concern this year, crops are able to take advantage of high temperatures and sunshine to manufacture and move DM into the cob."

He stresses that the differences in DM content mean growers should be checking crops to gauge when harvest is approaching, rather than relying on calendar date. "Dry matter of 28-32% can be reached sooner than you think."

Forage maize dry matter data from seven farms

Site LocationHeight aboveDrillingDM%DM%

sea level (m)dateAug 14 Aug 21

Crediton, Devon11818/415.318.5

Attleborough, Norfolk2525/420.1 27.9

Gelli Aur, Dyfed238/5* 17.5

Winchester, Hampshire10012/414.819.9

Ticknall, Derbyshire6717/415.918.7

Castle Howard, Yorkshire759/512.817.5

Dumfries, Scotland4515/514.013.5